Alumna is finalist on Trump’s Apprentice

By Laura Bishop

When alumna Rebecca Jarvis (B.A. ’03) tried to get coffee from a Starbucks, it took 20 minutes for her to make it out of the store. The holdup was not slow service, but rather a crush of people wanting pictures and autographs. Several days later, Jarvis received an e-mail from some Australian tourists telling her how excited they were to have seen her in the Starbucks, even though they did not get to meet her.

Incidents like these have become part of everyday life for Jarvis since she appeared in the most recent season of the hit television show The Apprentice with Donald Trump.

“I didn’t expect to be recognized as much as I have been,” Jarvis said. “I’m sure within a matter of weeks people will stop recognizing me as the girl from The Apprentice.”

Jarvis applied to the program partially on a whim. Out of one million applicants, she was one of the last two contestants on the show before being turned down in the final challenge.

Her audition started with an open casting call in Chicago, with several rounds of group and single interviews. She then met with Trump in Los Angeles and was chosen to be part of the show.

Jarvis said that during the audition process, she did not know how likely she was to be chosen.

“I had no sense of what my chances were. You never know what they’re looking for,” Jarvis said. “It’s like any job interview, go in with confidence, but you don’t know if you’re what they’re looking for.”

After being chosen, Jarvis was not allowed to tell anyone the news until shortly before the show began airing. After taking a leave of absence from Crain’s Chicago Business and Business 2.0, where she had been working as a freelance financial journalist, she traveled to New York to begin the program.

The 18 individuals featured on the show covered a range of demographics. Jarvis, at 23, was one of the youngest candidates. She said that her youth was part of the reason she applied.

“When I signed up to do The Apprentice, I thought: this will all be a wash by the time I’m 25,” Jarvis said. “The fact that I’m young allowed me to move on with the show without stopping my whole career.”

Jarvis said she enjoyed the experience, and that it met her expectations as a chance to meet interesting people and learn about Donald Trump’s management style. While on the show, the contestants were constantly kept busy with new tasks and challenges. Jarvis said that finishing the challenges was one of the most intense parts of the show.

“Everything occurred on such a short timeline,” Jarvis said. “There were so many ‘turn on a dime’ moments. When it gets close to the final deadline, everything just gets done. They were very high-pressured moments.”

Jarvis’ experience on the show changed dramatically during the second week when she broke her ankle playing ice hockey on the show. Despite the pain from her injury, Jarvis continued competing with a cast and crutches.

For the rest of the show’s run, Jarvis had the additional complication of her ankle to deal with. Because of the injury, she said she was forced to plan ahead much more, even for simple things such as how to get upstairs while carrying her bag.

Her injury, however, did not stop her from enjoying her time on the show. Jarvis said that she liked the tasks and that her favorite part of the experience was the boardrooms, where contestants evaluated their own and others’ performance and received feedback from Donald Trump and his two associates.

Although the contest was televised, she said that the tasks she had to complete gained a much larger part of her attention.

“For me, we were so busy that I forgot the cameras were there. I was so busy planning ahead, I was so focused that I really forgot they were there,” Jarvis said.

The final show of The Apprentice was broadcast live, weeks after the last tasks had been completed, but before Trump’s hiring decision had been made. Jarvis’s friends in Chicago organized a support party for her at Elm St. Liquors. Over 250 people came, so many that they were spilling out of the doors. Other members of Jarvis’ family were in the audience of the broadcast at Rockefeller Center.

“My family and friends have been very supportive, and very proud, but at the same time, they recognize it as one of a number of exciting things I’ve done with my life, and I know how proud they are of those other things, too,” Jarvis said.

Jarvis has been in the national spotlight for many years, winning a Points of Light service award from President Clinton and starting a nonprofit that raised over $750,000 towards youth leadership before graduating high school.

She said that choosing the University of Chicago was an important decision for her. Jarvis said that she hopes the publicity from the show does not cause people to think of the U of C’s strengths in light of a television show.

“I hate to think of anyone associating the U of C with ‘preparation for reality TV,’” Jarvis said. “My time at the U of C was for my life. It prepared me to be a critical thinker.”

While Jarvis said that she thoroughly enjoyed her time on the show, she also keeps the fact that it was one reality series in perspective. She liked the show not just because it was on television, but because it allowed her to learn and interact in a challenging business environment.

“The people and ideas you’re surrounded by, these are the real thing,” Jarvis said. “One day on the U of C campus, contributing to the exchanges that take place in U of C classrooms, exceeds all of the excitement of the show.”

Since ending her run on The Apprentice, Jarvis has returned to her former freelance writing jobs. However, since the show she has been inundated with job offers in business, finance, journalism, and other fields. Jarvis said she is currently pursuing several different options.

“There are a lot of really exciting things on the horizon,” Jarvis said. “I’m looking forward to seeing how things turn out.”